The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Morsi's team

The new team of assistants and advisors appointed by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (see links below) can be criticized on many grounds: it is mostly composed of Islamists, and the reasons for various people being in these positions — or what exact powers these positions come with — are rather uncertain. While there are some good people there, one gets the impression that the council of advisors is there mostly to reward loyalist and political partners and give a few token positions to "frenemies" from across the ideological aisle. It's not even clear whether these advisors will be a real center of power (well, at least they will have the power that comes with access, presumably) or if the "kitchen cabinet" of the Morsi staff will be elsewhere. I would have liked to see what appointments are made on the staff of the presidential palace, under the chief of staff or Morsi's personal secretariat, more than these largely political appointments. I suspect they will be what their holders make of them, let's hope they use these positions and podiums wisely.

Of course, in any presidential system the holder of the office uses these appointments to reward friends and allies, and there is no reason to expect anything different here. By that standard, several of the appointments — Goweida and al-Sayyad — are a decent attempt to reach out. But these are still too few, and there are too many cronies, in the extraordinary times when the president should have been, as he claimed he would be, a uniter. In particular, there are very few representatives of the Coptic community: including Habib here is a joke considering he has very limited credibility with the bulk of Egypt's Christians, even if Samir Morqos is a good choice for the more prominent "assistant" position.

One question I still don't have answered is: does the lack of diversity in Morsi's team represent his desire for a mostly Islamist team, or the lack of potential partners outside the Islamist community — considering that many who were asked in July turned down the offers of a post?